THOMAS LEEB Part 2
In this second part of our video masterclass special with Thomas Leeb, the Austrian acoustic virtuoso shows Stuart Ryan his fingerpicking approach.
This month, Thomas introduces some of his more conventional acoustic techniques.
IN LAST ISSUE’S Star Video lesson, acoustic wizard Thomas Leeb showed us how he incorporates modern techniques into his playing – tapping, on- body percussion and advanced use of harmonics are just some of the facets of his style that make his playing unique. In this second part of the video lesson, Thomas takes us to the opposite end of the spectrum with a traditional piece in DADGAD tuning, where he demonstrates his mastery of conventional fingerpicking approaches.
However, in keeping with his modern acoustic style, there are still plenty of inherent challenges here. Leeb is well known for his sense of groove and swing, and those elements permeate this performance – the piece has a strong swing feel throughout, and it’s essential to capture this in order to retain the spirit of the performance. In addition, you’ll also notice the use of more modern approaches with such techniques as the hammer- on from nowhere. The idea here is to hammer on to a note without picking the string first – this requires a great deal of strength and accuracy on the fretting hand and is a technique well worth perfecting in isolation, before attempting it in a piece like this one.
There are more challenges associated with this style: when playing traditional pieces, it’s common to ‘ ornament’ or embellish the melody. In practice, this means very briefly adding notes that aren’t part of the melody – what we refer to as ‘ grace notes.’ You’ll see these from the first bar onwards, and they are very difficult to execute, as there’s a fine
Leeb is well known for his sense of groove and swing, and those elements are essential to this performance – the piece has a strong swing feel throughout.
balance between the note sounding briefly as an embellishment, and sounding for too long and becoming a feature of the piece. Learning how to deal with grace notes is an excellent discipline for both fretting and picking hands, and is an essential technique to master if you’re learning pieces in this style.
Another element to be aware of is the self- accompaniment provided by the bass notes throughout the piece; typically, these are the open sixth and fifth strings, though Thomas does use the fourth string for this purpose as well. These bass notes are usually played on beat one, but there are a few places where Thomas can trip you up. Try bar 16, for example, where he plays the low ‘ D’ bass note on both beat one and the ‘ and’ of beat one – you’ll need a precise picking- hand thumb here!
These two lessons have only provided a snapshot of Thomas’s style, but hopefully, you’ll have seen that he is a well- rounded player who’s not only leading the modern fingerstyle movement, but also keeping the traditional flag flying as well.
Thomas Leeb: with his Lowden signature model